Democrats & Liberals Archives

Need Afghanistan Exit Strategy

If we are not careful, the Afghanistan War will be worse for America than the Iraq War. Adm. Mullen wants more troops. For how long, he did not say. What would more troops accomplish, he did not know. Could more troops reduce corruption and make Afghanistan a healthy state? No. Obviously, just as in Iraq, Obama needs an Afghanistan Exit Strategy.

Adm. Mullen and other military-operation boosters, such as Senator McCain, want more troops. What we need, they say, is what we did in Iraq: we had a "surge" and we won. We can do the same in Afghanistan. For the life of me, I fail to see what we "won" in Iraq. As far as getting rid of terrorism, we did the opposite. We got so many Arabs riled up that they joined Al Qaeda.

Besides, Afghanistan is different from Iraq. Afghanistan has more dangerous terrain. It has a history of destroying great armies. Furthermore, it is more tribal with many warlords who have control of various fiefdoms. And corruption is built into the system.

Corruption, the main reason for our problems in Afghanistan, cannot be solved with military means. Adm. Mullen said so, as you can see from the following exchange at the Senate Armed Services Committe hearing:

However, the unlikely figure of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised the key issue of the day. He began his questioning of Adm. Mullen by asking whether the Taliban had any tanks. No, Mullen replied. Graham then asked how many airplanes they have. None, the admiral answered, perhaps wondering where this line of inquiry was going.

Then Graham zeroed in. If that's the case, he asked, how is it that the Taliban are gaining ground? The problem isn't the Taliban, it's the Afghan government, isn't that right?

Mullen agreed. The problem, he said, "is clearly the lack of legitimacy of the government."
A few minutes later, under questioning from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Mullen elaborated: "The Afghan government needs to have some legitimacy in the eyes of the people. The core issue is the corruption. … It's been a way of life for some time, and it's just got to change. That threat is every bit as significant as the Taliban."

How on Earth will more troops remove corruption from Afghanistan? Neither the Admiral nor anyone else can answer this question.

More troops will prevent restoration of a safe haven for Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, the Admiral thinks. Al Qaeda does have a safe haven and it is in Pakistan. It's the Taliban we are fighting in Afghanistan. Our major quarrel is not with the Taliban - as lousy as it is, it did not attack America. Al Qaeda did attack us and has pledged to attack us again.

Does Al Qaeda need a safe haven in order to do its dirty work? Not really, according to Paul R. Pillar, who was Deputy Chief of the Counterterrorist Center at CIA from 1997 to 1999:

The debate has largely overlooked a more basic question: How important to terrorist groups is any physical haven? More to the point: How much does a haven affect the danger of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, especially the U.S. homeland? The answer to the second question is: not nearly as much as unstated assumptions underlying the current debate seem to suppose. When a group has a haven, it will use it for such purposes as basic training of recruits. But the operations most important to future terrorist attacks do not need such a home, and few recruits are required for even very deadly terrorism. Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States.

All this fuss about safe havens takes us off our main goal of ridding the world of Al Qaeda. Are we going to look at every country in the world to determine whether it is failing or about to fail, and then rush in to build it up so that it may never be a safe haven for Al Qaeda? Ridiculous. Somalia, anyone?

It's amazing that Republicans, who were against nation building are now in the forefront of those who want to rebuild nations all over the world!

Instead of playing around with Afghanistan-War benchmarks, Obama should be guided by his own more world-sensitive approach, which I think is this:

Our primary strategy is not to kill terrorists, but to blunt terrorist recruitment.

All this killing leads to the killing of innocent civilians. Every day we hear about such events in Afghanistan. Every time this happens, more people hate the U.S. and more Al Qaeda members are produced. Rather than concentrate on killing terrorists, we should talk, seek agreements, negotiate economic treaties and try to settle conflicts, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This is what I thought Obama believed. Isn't this the reason he went to Cairo for his famous international speech? I hope he sticks to his guns. He should not go deeper militarily in Afghanistan; it will become his Vietnam. He should avoid nation building. Instead of benchmarks for success, he should design an Afghanistan Exit Strategy that will enable him to concentrate on reducing world terrorism.

Posted by Paul Siegel at September 17, 2009 7:44 PM
Comment #288278

The surge in Iraq worked to turn around the situation there, making it possible for President Obama to withdraw troops more or less on President Bush’s schedule. The way that people were predicting the end of the world because of the surge back in 2007, I would think some of you would be too embarrassed to bring it up.

Whether the successful surge strategy applied in Iraq can work in the very different situation of Afghanistan remains to be seen. You may have a point there.

I have come to believe that many of the bastards over in the Middle East and South Asia are going to hate us no matter what. They seem to hate each other just about as much or more, so there is not much we can do to change the hearts and minds. For the great majority of the haters, we can rely on their internecine fighting, general incompetence, inability or indolence to keep them occupied, but that is not sufficient protection in the long run.

Since you mentioned 9/11, remember that those attacks took place before we invaded Iraq or Afghanistan, within a year of when we had saved thousands of Muslim lives in Kosovo and when we were the largest donors preventing a terrible famine in Afghanistan. When they heard the news of thousands of Americans killed during time of peace, Palestinians celebrated by dancing in the streets. You don’t have to do much of anything to p*ss some people off and throw them into murderous rage.

Posted by: Christine at September 17, 2009 9:14 PM
Comment #288280

Since when has a democrat needed an exit strategy? All Obama has to do is what democrats do best, cut and run. We don’t care what happens to those people and we certainly don’t care what the rest of the world thinks of us. Just today, Obama scrapped a missle defence plan that was in place for many of our Euopean allies. The eastern block countries that have stuck their necks out and broken tires with Russia, with the promise of American support, are now left to fend for themselves. A recent poll in the Jerusalem Post, showed only 4% of Israelies believe America will come to their aid, if attacked by muslims.

I think Obama should bring our troops home immediatly, and the next time he has the opportunity to stand before the UN, ha can again appologize for the evils of America.

Posted by: propitiation at September 17, 2009 10:02 PM
Comment #288281

I’ve never heard anyone say that additional troops in Afghanistan would be used to fight corruption in the government, so I’m not sure why that point needs to either be made or contradicted. Clearly there’s more than one front to this battle and diplomatic as well as military means have to be used in tandem.

Afghanistan is not one of the issues that Democrats or Obama can plausibly blame on Bush and refuse to take responsibility for.

When Obama ran for president, he repeatedly accused Bush and Republicans of “taking their eye off the ball” in Afghanistan and not dedicating enough resources to the effort there. So now that he’s President, let’s give him the chance to show us what it means to keep our eye on the ball there. He voluntarily offered to own this problem, and now he does. It’s completely his responsibility, and he is the only person who is Commander in Chief.

Running away from a fight he promised to not only fight but be more aggressive in fighting would hardly be keeping his eye on the ball. I don’t know what the solutions will be, but he’s the one who claimed to be capable of finding them, so let’s see what he can do. I’m willing to give him the chance to deliver, and will applaud him if he succeeds. Fortunately I haven’t yet seem him doing what so many of his supporters seem to be doing on this issue, which is to try to evade any responsiblity for his own promises.

Posted by: Paul at September 17, 2009 10:12 PM
Comment #288282

While campaigning, and of course going on and on about how badly Bush was doing, he also so said he would send troops across the Pakistan border and get OBL.

Posted by: propitiation at September 17, 2009 10:42 PM
Comment #288284

Afghanistan is a feudal backwater that is isolated from most of the world. Their juxtaposition between Iran, Pakistan, and as a passable route between huge mountain ranges puts them in the path of lots of outside influence.

It is my opinion that only a long term education program and long term strong military presence can change this. It will take more than a generation.

Given the problems with Pakistan, it is for the US, a key strategical place to deal with radicalism coming from Pakistan. It may be a mistake to surrender that position.

Being honest about these purely US goals and the intractable problems in Afghanistan should be the basis of the political discussion.

Posted by: gergle at September 17, 2009 11:19 PM
Comment #288285

Agreed. The window of opportunity closed a long time ago. Pouring more resources into Afghanistan is simply a waste. There was a time, after the invasion and the escape of Bin Laden, when rebuilding might have worked. Might. Bush promised to pour money into infrastructure and promote democracy. At the time, I thought that was a good idea. Unfortunately, that effort was drastically curtailed by the disaster of Iraq. Now it’s too late.

I wish that weren’t the case, but then, I wish a lot of things. An unemotional assessment suggests the costs of withdrawal are less than the costs of staying. As Gergle points out, there are some benefits to staying, but in economic terms, it just isn’t worth it. Circumstances have changed. Our nation has fallen a long, long way. The first step in getting out of a hole is to stop digging.

In terms of the big picture, it is remarkable how similar the US experience in Afghanistan has been to the experience of the USSR in the 1980’s. In both cases, a puppet government failed to control territory outside of Kabul. Overwhelming technological superiority proved meaningless. The costs of the war turned out to be ruinous.

We turned our attention away from the war in Afghanistan to invade and occupy Iraq. It was the worst strategic decision in the history of the United States… with the possible exception of the War of 1812, when British troops burned the Capitol and forced the president to flee the city. That was bad. Yet the mistake of Iraq might be even worse, because its cost played a direct role in contributing to the collapse of the American economy and visions of empire.

Posted by: phx8 at September 18, 2009 1:48 AM
Comment #288286

Why I do admit that it would be harder now than it would have been when the Republicans were telling the Democrats that “We have to Stay the Course.” However, coming up with a plan to “Win the Peace” in Afgan should begin with some Members of Congress respecting and understanding the Rule of Law.

For why I will put American Troops up against anybody or anything, you should know from the Idiots in Charge of this Nation that no society can be seen as Civilized when it is precieved that the biggest grangters in the land are the Elected Officials.

So I think the best thing President Obama and Congress can do is to explain how they are going to work with the Elected Officials of Afgan on how they plan to build a “Better World” for their citizens. Because full of gems and minerals, I don’t think Al Qaeda and the Taliban want to try to put their vision of doom and fear up against the never ending hope that comes with Generational Change. And though the road to Peace is not easy, it is the ultimate weapon of a Warrior.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 18, 2009 2:26 AM
Comment #288289

Lets not forget that the Taliban are Sunni Muslim fundamentalists that share a common religious philosophy with their Arab counterparts, al-Qaeda. They threaten to destabilize Pakistan and return Afghanistan to a safe haven for the type of fundamentalism that resulted in 9/11. If there is an identifiable enemy in the “War on Terror”, it is radical Sunni fundamentalism.

The fact that we took our eye off the ball when we invaded Iraq, does not excuse our need to address the threats posed by a radical fundamentalist political movement in Pakistan and Afghanistan. To do so, would be to repeat the mistakes of pre-9/11.

The fact that the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan are weak and corrupt is also not an excuse to cut and run in that region. A nuclear fundamentalist controlled state with a large supportive neighbor would be an unspeakable problem.

There are no simple solutions. We allowed the problem to fester for eight long years. It is time that we seriously exam our strategies and take the steps necessary to give our efforts a chance of success.

Personally, I would’nt care if the radical Sunni fundamentalists just wanted to practice their religion and customs in peacefull co-existence with their neighbors. Unfortunately, 9/11 and other attacks including political assassinations prove otherwise.

Posted by: Rich at September 18, 2009 8:27 AM
Comment #288290

I would urge everyone with an interest in Afghanistan to read “Charlie Wilson’s War”. You will be astounded. We pumped billions in arms “covertly” to arm and train some of the very people we are fighting now. These are not nice people. They would routinely cut the arms and legs off captured Russian soldiers and dump what was left on the roads to Russian bases. We looked the other way because they were killing Russians. Looking the other way got to be a bad habit during the Cold War. In hind site,we may have better off staying neutral. At any rate, we failed to follow up our victory with enough development aid and assistance to stabilize the country, allowing the Talaban the political vacumn, not mention the weapons and tactics, they needed to sieze power. That failure happened during the end of the collapsing Reagan Administration and the early years of Bush I. Remember . no nation building.
This is,remember, a NATO operation. The US cannot unilaterally change things without cooperation and consultation. Probably this is a good thing.
We should take a realistic look at our security interest. IMO that is to prevent a staging area or training base for attacks on the US and Europe. They may not be necessary for terrorist attacks but that does not mean they would not use them if available. True enough Somalia and other places might work for them the same way. One at a time ,please.
Afghanistan does not have much history of strong central government. The Talaban are probably the strongest they have had for centuries. We should abandon the goal of creating one. That is a western construct anyway. A government strong enough to keep the lights on in Kabul is plenty. Let the rest of the country resume its tribal rule. So what. By leaving an on the ground intell network and continued survellence by drones,offering rewards to various warlords to snitch off Al Quieda and each other, we should be able to remove the threat to the west with very few troops and treasure.Again the Great Game with high tech improvement.

Posted by: bills at September 18, 2009 9:24 AM
Comment #288291

BillS, those might be some ideas that should get more attention, but there are at least two things to keep in mind that would have to be addressed by any plan, be that a step-down in our military presence or ratchetingi it up.

1). The Taliban and Al Qaida in Afghanistan CANNOT be seen as having “driven us out.” If we’re worried about terrorist recruitment now, wait to see what happens if they achieve whas is seen as a “victory” over the United States.

2). If the Taliban and Al Qaida cannot be eradicated in Afghanistan, they must at least be kept on the devensive so they are at least confined to Afghanistan—to the maximum extent possible. We can’t forget that that is where 9-11 and several other plots with an international reach originated.

Posted by: Paul at September 18, 2009 11:38 AM
Comment #288292

“By leaving an on the ground intell network and continued survellence by drones,offering rewards to various warlords to snitch off Al Quieda and each other, we should be able to remove the threat to the west with very few troops and treasure.”

Good point. Rather than a full withdrawal, it can be a matter of degree, and just be a draw down to a minimum force. It’s not a great solution, but this is a situation where ‘good enough’ will have to do.

Destabilizing Pakistan kind of assumes Pakistan was ever stable in the first place. The NW region has not been under the control of a national government for a long time, if ever. The national government of Pakistan already possesses nukes. There is virtually no chance the the Afghan government or Pashtun tribes or radical Sunni fundamentalists will ever obtain nukes. That is not a realistic threat. The Afghan government is not just weak and corrupt. It is almost non-existentent. There is almost no infrastructure, never mind the sophisticated industries needed to build a nuclear weapon.

The threats are the same as before, and they will never disappear, regardless of what happens in Afghanistan. The appropriate response is more along the lines of law enforcement, with intelligence playing a key role. The days when a large NATO or US force could win hearts and minds by bombing and shooting people never really existed; that only works when the intention is to kill hearts and minds.

Posted by: phx8 at September 18, 2009 11:42 AM
Comment #288300

“Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States. “

Why insert reality into a political discussion? We need a place to waste jet fuel and drop bombs and someone is always raining on our parade. The unlucky afghans are in the remotest place we can find until we can start bombing Outer Mongolia. Those Outer Mongolians are the real threat! How come no sympathy for the poor military industial complex? Do you want Mr Northrop and Mr Grumman hanging around in your neighborhood with a sign that says “will work for food’”?

There are only two solutions that I can see for this continuing problem. One is to abolish the presidency and change to a parliamentary system, and the other is to reduce the armed forces to levels so low that no president and complicit congress will ever be able to go crusading again.

Posted by: ohrealy at September 18, 2009 2:56 PM
Comment #288303

The US is the world’s largest arms exporter, accounting for over 60% of exports. Worse yet, the US accounts for 70% of exports to developing countries. It’s a shameful thing. The money wasted on the military for “defense” is a terrible drag on the economy.

Most people want to give Obama a chance to try something different in Afghanistan, but now it’s becoming apparent we’re fresh out of ideas. Time to drastically draw down. I’d rather see that, than an Obama administration spending years cleaning up the awful mess left by the Bush administration.

Posted by: phx8 at September 18, 2009 4:08 PM
Comment #288307

phx8 and others

The problem for President Obama is the same as for any leader. It is easy to promise you will make changes, but then you come up against realities.

I understand that many people here don’t think Bush or his people were very smart. That makes it doubly interesting that when Obama gets in power he essentially follows the Bush trajectory. Maybe that is because some facts and interests abide, no matter what the President says he wants to do.

Maybe we are fresh out of ideas because the options are limited. No American leader wants to occupy Afghanistan. There is nothing there we want. But we found from experience that even if we leave it alone, it doesn’t leave us alone.

President Obama has an advantage over President Bush. The left will hesitate to attack him because he is their man. The right will moderate their criticism out of a sense of patriotism in supporting the President overseas. So I am a little more optimistic about President Obama. But even in the best case scenario, it will be hard.

Posted by: Christine at September 18, 2009 8:51 PM
Comment #288309

“when Obama gets in power he essentially follows the Bush trajectory”

I think 43 also started going in a direction that he thought was more likely to be followed by the next administration, regardless of who won the election. The oil companies got what they wanted, so that was all that mattered to him.

Incidentally, to the person whose name begins with a C who posted the quoted remark, your name may actually be a spam trigger when included in another person’s post, in addition to other trigger words that can cause a person responding having their post rejected. The last time I responded to a response of yours to a post of mine, the site wouldn’t accept it, in spite of repeated attempts, and that was the possible reason that the managing editor gave.

Posted by: ohrealy at September 18, 2009 9:23 PM
Comment #288310


I’m not quite sure what you mean by the Bush trajectory. Did Bush put the US in intractable positions that are now hard to unwind? In the words of Sarah Palin. You Betcha.

If that is what you consider following his trajectory, well, that’s spinning suitable for Ed Sullivan and the guy with the plates.

Posted by: gergle at September 18, 2009 9:44 PM
Comment #288315

The Bush trajectory simply means that there has been little in the way of real changes. In Iraq, he is following the Bush timetable. The Bush surge was a gift to Obama, BTW. In Afghanistan it doesn’t seem much different than you could have expected in a 3rd Bush term.

The only big difference has been in the rhetoric. The president has apologized and pandered.Our adversaries throw it back and our friends don’t help any more than before, sometimes less.

I believe Obama was a little childish in his worldview. When he got the briefings and saw the world how it really was, he starting to behave more like Bush’s second term, which was generally well managed. His leftist supporters, lacking the better world view, still are on his back for not doing the foolish things he promised and they demanded.

BTW - right now Obama is getting his economics education and we can expect him to shift back to a less expensive government. He is an intelligent man. He will drift in the right direction.

Posted by: Christine at September 18, 2009 10:37 PM
Comment #288320

President Bush lost his command in 2005 when he said that the next president would have to deal with the problem. And why I agree that President Obama has allowed the Generals to fight the war, I do not see a whole lot of fight in Congress to put the political pressure on the Leaders of Afgan to take charge of their country.

And for economics education, does the old saying you have to spend money to make money sound familar.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 19, 2009 3:49 AM
Comment #288331

Henry wrote; “And for economics education, does the old saying you have to spend money to make money sound familar.”

OK Henry…we’ve certainly spent the money, when will the profit occur?

Posted by: Royal Flush at September 19, 2009 12:24 PM
Comment #288334


Horse Hockey!!!

Bush’s “time table” was forced on him, because of his clearly failed policies. It isn’t his or Runsfeld’s timetable.

Same goes with the surge. Too little, too late. This was his get out the door without too much egg on the face strategy. Didn’t work.

You’re right about Afghanistan, though thinking of a third term of Bush is a bit of bizarre thought, maybe you meant McCain. Once you screw the pooch, you aren’t left with a lot of choices.

The only problem with your projection of Bush’s problems onto Obama, is that Obama campaigned on exactly what he is doing in Iraq and Aghanistan.

As to getting an education, well, perhaps it is Americans who are getting that education. Thanks to GWB. Americans are learning that Republican rhetoric is a lot of crap.

Posted by: gergle at September 19, 2009 12:50 PM
Comment #288337

Royal Flush,
Look at the increase in stock prices, the lowering prices of gas and food, and the fact that home owners are not seeing the worth of their home in a free fall.

Now, for the average working American I will admit that their wages have not increased, taxes have risen, and their overall cost of living has increased; however, since that is a problem created and caused by the Private Sector and not the Federal Government I do believe the anger people feel needs to be redirected.

And to a point it is. Just look at the people revolting against credit card companies, slowing their spending, and not buying into the hype of Wall Street. Now, IMHO that should be just the first step in correcting the problem. For example; want to see Healthcare Premiums take a nose dive? Than all the American Consumer and Small Business Owner has to do is stop making their monthly payments. Since the Market is driven by profits, explain to me how the CEOs of the Health Insurance Companies are suppose to make money when their source of income is gone?

Because why Americans used strikes at the turn of the last century to make a better living for us all, in today’s global market imagine what would happen if the American Consumer went on strike. Care to tell me how long many of the Want-to-Be Rich would last if the Corporation sales feel to near zero?

So, why the Founding Fathers of America was right in saying that the power of a Nation rests in the hands of its citizens. Seeing that some Republicans are more interested in regianing power than working within the Framework of Americas’ Founding Documents to make a Higher Standard of Living for every American. I wonder what Management would do if they were faced by a Consumer Revolution? Since, in Reality one could make the argument that such a revolution is already taking place on a global scale.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 19, 2009 2:46 PM
Comment #288340

Hard to believe you could come to that conclusion. The Bush “trajectory”included the dangerious irrational,anti-missile deployment within spitting distance of Moscow. He has stopped that. For that act alone he has shone himself to be a great president even though he/us have to spend a lot of time and money trying to repair the damages done to our country and the world by his previous administration.

On the economic side,another Bush/Rep legacy, I hope he does not listen to the fiscal side right now. We may well be seeing a technical end to the recession. This is good ,but it may be only an inventory bounce. Even in a slow market a business runs out of stuff to sell so it hires more people and products to make more stuff to sell. If the market is still slow after the new stuff is put in inventory then businesses stop buying stuff and lay people off. We may well be looking at a double dip recession.The way out of that,the only way, is through another government stimulus.
Regards to Jack

Posted by: bills at September 19, 2009 3:20 PM
Comment #288341

Thanks for actually reading my post.
Another big key is Iran. Persia has always had a great influence on Afghanistan,language ,religion,trade,etc. New approaches and a new relationship with Iran ,hard as it may be , will be necessary to stablize the region .BHO appears to,at least be aware of the possibilities.

Posted by: bills at September 19, 2009 3:35 PM
Comment #288345

Right about Iran. Their repressive government cannot stand close contact with our culture. The contact will cause the culture to change and the mullahs to fall, just as it was an important cause of the fall of the Soviet Union. We’ve been very fortunate the conservatives have not launched wars and bombings against Iran. They are so bloody minded. Can you even believe a few years ago those yahoos were talking about islamofascism?! Iran will change, and change for the better, and it is thanks to the enlightened policies of liberals and people like Obama.

Posted by: phx8 at September 19, 2009 7:11 PM
Comment #288354

Phx8, I must confess my amazement. The Iranian regime, just like the Soviet Union before it, will fall because of contact with “our culture,” a culture best exemplified by enlightened American liberals like Barack Obama? And all of this despite the influence of “bloody minded” conservatives?

Do you need to be reminded where “enlightened” Americans liberals stood during the cold war? Pretty much exactly where they stand now regarding Iran. Conservatives have not launched wars and bombings against Iran for the reason they didn’t launch them against Soviet Russia. Because it’s not what they deemed to be the best policy. Maintaining the ability to do so, however, was instrumental in the Soviet downfall, just as it hopefully will be with Iran. The fact that Iranian citizens may be watching reruns of Friends and listening to Justin Timberlake on their I-pods will not in itself break the stranglehold of the mullahs.

Posted by: Paul at September 19, 2009 10:36 PM
Comment #288355

Actually, Justin Timberlake and I-pods are a much more certain way of changing Iran than force will ever be.

Think about it. Totalitarian regimes maintain power by controlling information and information technology. Look at North Korea. It is remarkable for its isolation. North Korea is a successful totalitarian regime despite devoting an enormous amount of its resources to the military, more than the USSR or Iran ever did. Why does this work for North Korea? How can it continue to rule despite spending all of its money on the military, even to the point that the population starves? It works because the government controls almost all input received by the population.

Military force does not work unless applied with overwhelming force. It takes the threat or annihilation or outright genocide in order for military force to be effective.

Once the US and USSR faced each other with M.A.D doctrine, the military was no longer a viable option. It is also not a viable option for dealing with Iran. The US possesses an overwhelming military and technological advantage over Iran, yet the threat of force seems to result in exactly the opposite results we desire.

It is cultural contact and interaction which will bring Iran into peaceful relationships with the US and the rest of the world, and the mullahs know this. That is why they responded to the unrest after the recent vote by suppressing information technologies, and then suppressing the population with overwhelming force.

Have some confidence in our real strengths, Paul. It is not military power. It is not force. That did not work in Iraq, and it is not working in Afghanistan. Our real strength is in our ideas, our culture, and our ideas, because those spread the idea of free-thinking and freedom of choice. As Obama said in a recent speech, it is all about the character of our country, and Obama is playing to its strengths.

Posted by: phx8 at September 19, 2009 11:36 PM
Comment #288358

Phx8, I don’t disagree with you in the slightest that the real strength of our culture lies in our ideas. Or that exposure to these ideas will have, over the long term, a transformative effect on Iran and societies like it. I don’t know why you think that conservatives would disagree—we don’t.

It’s just a simple matter of being prepared to deal with the reality now instead of the reality we hope for in the future.

Twenty years from now, today’s Iranian teenagers who wear baggy jeans and listen to their Ipods will hopefully bring a new day to Iran. While we don’t want to do anything, if it can be avoided, to alienate them or make them think that the West is the enemy, it just won’t matter if the current folks who run the show launch their missles two years from now. Those people are nuts, they’re in control, and they are the ones who could bring about the worst-case scenarios that we need to be prepared to deal with. Hoping for the best does not mean that you don’t prepare for the worst, or pretend that the worst could never happen. Because it could, just like it has many times before.

Posted by: Paul at September 20, 2009 12:09 AM
Comment #288378

Is that why some Republicans and Pundits screamed when President Obama cut the long range missile defense system in favor of short range. For IMHO I do believe Iran and other countries are more worried about having their own missiles shot down over their land than others.

In fact, looking at the Democrats over the last 20 years compared to the Republicans I wonder if you can tell me who has cried more about not confronting our enemy? Remember the argument about America becoming the World Cops?

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 20, 2009 11:33 PM
Comment #288452

It’s tough - yes you SHOULD have an exit strategy but leaving at the WRONG time is a disaster so it’s a tough one to call.

Posted by: Frank at September 24, 2009 11:56 AM
Comment #288483


The surge in Iraq did nothing, it was the surrender — I mean pay off that did it:)
The Anbar awakening came when the guys that were fighting us woke up and smelled the planeloads of cash. Anytime you pay your enemy to stop fight you and start fighting someone else (like Al Qaeda in Iraq)it called surrender.

Posted by: Fred at September 25, 2009 6:39 PM
Comment #288539


While certainly there is reason to be cynical about what happened in Iraq. The reason the money worked wasn’t because Iraqi’s are just simpletons with greed at the forefront. Iraq has been a shambles since the Iraq/Iran war. These folks are simply looking for ways to put food on the table. That is the real solution to stability in any region. What people are looking for is sustenance, being able to bettter their own and children’s lives.

Offer them that, and they will follow you anywhere.

Posted by: gergle at September 27, 2009 12:54 PM
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